New York Mets: Conor Jackson

Mets morning briefing 7.29.12

July, 29, 2012
PHOENIX -- Ike Davis slugged three solo homers, but Chris Young surrendered six runs in four innings and the Mets lost to the Diamondbacks, 6-3, Saturday at Chase Field.

Davis went 4-for-4 with a single and the three homers. His 13 total bases are tied for the second most in a game in franchise history, according to ESPN Stats & Information. The record-holder: Edgardo Alfonzo, with 16 total bases, on three homers, a double and two singles, in 1999. Davis' 13 total bases matched performances by Darryl Strawberry (1985), Claudell Washington (1980) and Jim Hickman (1965).

Since 2006, the Mets now are 1-2 when they have a player produce a three-homer game. The rest of baseball is 51-4 during that span, according to ESPN Stats & Information. The Mets also lost a three-homer game by Jose Reyes in 2006.

In today's series finale, the Mets turn to R.A. Dickey (13-2, 2.97 ERA). The knuckleballer opposes left-hander Joe Saunders (5-6, 3.51) as the Mets try to claim a split of the four-game series before moving on to San Francisco and then San Diego.

Sunday's news reports:

• Columnist Joel Sherman in the Post projects the Mets will sign David Wright to an extension this offseason. The Mets have a team option on Wright at $16 million for 2013 right now. Writes Sherman:

In fact, I was surprised how confident Mets officials sounded that they would find common ground this offseason and retain Wright long term. Wright’s return to elite status this year means the Mets have to expect to pay well north of the six-year, $100 million extension Washington gave to Ryan Zimmerman in February, when the third baseman still had two years at $26 million remaining on his previous deal. Wright is due $16 million next year, and the Mets do not want all the tension that would come from Wright playing in his walk year, since their intention is to retain him anyway.

The Mets’ confidence probably has something to do with feeling a bit more financially secure post-Madoff. Also, after letting Jose Reyes go, there is pressure to commit long term to a homegrown, beloved face of the franchise. In addition, the Mets think they have a strong relationship with Wright’s representatives at ACES, which has a reputation for getting strong deals, but also for not dragging matters out when they feel their clients want a certain location and a beneficial contract can be completed -- and Wright has never hidden his desire to be a career-long Met.

• Davis' three-homer game came on the day he paid tribute to a childhood friend, Mike Lio, who died of Ewing's sarcoma in 2009, shortly before the first baseman made his major league debut.

Meanwhile, Davis' family recently remained concerned about the extent of Davis' latent but suspected case of valley fever, even if the first baseman minimized the issue. Writes Andrew Keh in the Times:

Those back in Arizona had their concerns. There were cautionary tales, like that of Conor Jackson, who was picked by the Diamondbacks in the first round of the 2003 draft and quickly rose to the majors before being struck by the illness in 2009, when he lost 30 pounds and had his career derailed. After The New York Times published an article last month about Jackson, who has been playing this year in Class AAA, Davis’s mother, Millie, reached out to him with questions about his recovery. Two weeks ago, they connected for a 20-minute phone conversation. “I think she was familiar with my case and how bad I got it, so I think that was in the back of her mind,” said Jackson, whose message to Millie Davis was direct: “I reassured her. I said, ‘Listen, if he’s playing, and he feels good enough to play, then he’s fine.’” Jackson added, “When you have a situation that arises like this, baseball’s fourth in line of your problems or worries at that time.”

• Young allowed six runs in four innings against the Diamondbacks. He indicated the problem solely was pitch location. Read game recaps in the Star-Ledger, Times, Newsday, Record, Post and Daily News.

Frank Francisco's planned appearance with Double-A Binghamton on Saturday was scrapped when the closer felt uncomfortable on his left side. Francisco is rehabbing from a strained left oblique, so the setback signals that it is unlikely the closer will be activated Monday in San Francisco, which appeared the intent. Told by reporters about Francisco's setback after managing Saturday's major league game, Terry Collins said he had bad news of his own to share. But, the manager added, he was in no mood to do so after the loss. Collins then downplayed the gravity of the impending announcement before reporters left the visiting manager's office at Chase Field. Stay tuned.

Scott Hairston said he is unfazed by the widespread interest from teams who would like to acquire him at the trade deadline. The bottom line, rightly or wrongly, is that Sandy Alderson wants to keep the 2012 team as competitive as possible, so it's unlikely Hairstson gets dealt before Tuesday's deadline, unless a team makes a substantial offer. Hairston is signed at $1.1 million for this season, then is eligible for free agency. He told the Mets have not broached the topic of a contract extension with him.

“I do want stability,” Hairston told Andy McCullough in the Star-Ledger. “I want to at least have a season where I don’t have to worry about where I’m going to be the next year. So I don’t know what the Mets are going to decide. They haven’t really came to me and talked to me about next year. It’s just one of those things. I just have to keep playing. I know things are going to work out. I’m not too worried about it. I just want to keep my focus on my job here. Everything else will take care of itself.”

Jason Bay went 0-for-4 with two strikeouts Saturday and is now hitless in his past 19 at-bats. With the Mets facing a southpaw today, it's likely Bay will remain in the lineup. Mike Puma in the Post reports Mike Baxter is poised to take over left-field duty against right-handed pitching, leaving Bay only to face southpaws, if Bay's production does not pick up in the next week. Read more on Bay in Newsday.

• Baxter should be back Monday in San Francisco after completing his rehab assignment with Triple-A Buffalo. He doubled and played a full game in left field while going 1-for-4 Saturday with the Bisons. “I’m just so excited to get back out there and play again,’’ Baxter told Kevin Kernan in the Post. “What took the longest to heal was the separated collarbone. The ribs and the cartilage and all that other stuff was pretty good in terms of healing and getting back into baseball shape, but the collarbone slowed everything down."

• 2012 first-round pick Gavin Cecchini produced his first professional homer, a grand slam that opened a five-run lead, and Kingsport beat Bristol, 9-5. Read Saturday's full minor league recap here.

• Savannah pitching coach Frank Viola, who remains the Mets' last 20-game winner, had joined Twitter. You can follow Viola at @FrankViola16. His daughter Brittany is a diving competitor at the London Olympics. Follow her at @BrittanyViola.

Josh Thole said he is prepared to catch Matt Harvey's second major league start, opposite Giants right-hander Tim Lincecum on Tuesday in San Francisco. Rob Johnson, who was Harvey's batterymate at Buffalo, was promoted last week along with the 2010 first-round pick and handled Harvey's major league debut. "I've seen enough of him," Thole told Anthony Rieber in Newsday. "... I watched him the other night and have a pretty good feel of what he likes to do."

• Left-handed reliever C.J. Nitkowski, who is attempting a comeback with the Binghamton Mets at age 39, will appear in a movie to be released next year about Jackie Robinson. Writes Tyler Kepner in the Times:

C. J. Nitkowski made the big time this summer, without even really trying. He will play the role of Dutch Leonard, a pitcher for the 1947 Philadelphia Phillies, in the movie “42,” about Jackie Robinson, to be released next April. He got the part through a connection in the youth baseball league he helps coach in Georgia. “The fact that I have a name and I’m not just ‘Baseball Pitcher,’ I guess that’s a big deal for actors, to get that,” said Nitkowski, a former major league reliever. “It’s not my profession, so I didn’t get too worked up about it, but people go to battle to get those roles.”

TRIVIA: At which university did Jeremy Hefner pitch?

Saturday's answer: Francisco, Bobby Parnell, Ramon Ramirez and Jon Rauch have earned saves for the Mets this season.

Mets morning briefing 3.6.12

March, 6, 2012
All eyes will be on Johan Santana on Tuesday. The southpaw makes his first 2012 Grapefruit League appearance -- and pitches in his first game since the fall instructional league. Santana will face the St. Louis Cardinals in Port St. Lucie. The Mets also will send a split squad to Kissimmee to face the Houston Astros.

Tuesday's news stories:

• Judge Jed S. Rakoff on Monday awarded trustee Irving Picard as much as $83.3 million and will allow him to attempt to collect another $303 million from Fred Wilpon, his family, businesses and charities at a March 19 civil trial. Still, Rakoff wrote, he did not believe Picard had the evidence/testimony to prove the Wilpons acted in bad faith while investing in Bernard Madoff's Ponzi scheme, meaning the judge does not expect a jury to award the additional sum at trial.

Read the news story recapping Monday's ruling here.

Read my analysis of what the ruling means for the future of the Wilpons as Mets owners here.

Read columnist Ian O'Connor's take here.

Read more in the Journal, Times, Newsday, Post, Daily News, Capital New York and Star-Ledger.

• At the winter meetings, Scott Boras pointedly said that the suddenly frugal Mets and Dodgers used to shop in the steak aisle of the supermarket, and now they're shopping in the fruits and nuts section. Still, at that time, Boras expressed confidence the Wilpons would right the ship with the Mets.

But in comments Monday reported by Vincent M. Mallozzi in the Times, Boras was far less diplomatic.

"When they are not providing fans with the highest quality of play, and they take an attitude of 'we're going to take on a development role,' knowing that the TV contracts, the market size and such allow them revenues that far exceed many of the clubs that have to pursue those development policies, that impacts the game," Boras said, according to the report. "The major franchises who are getting the majority of revenues should provide a product, or an attempt at a product, that has the near-highest payrolls commensurate with the markets they are in. ... If a player does not perform for the betterment of their team, then teams bring in other players. On the other side, there has to be an equation where there are requirements for ownership to perform at certain levels, and if they don't, they would lose their right to own a club and be replaced. I believe if we do that, we’re going to have a better game. ... When you're seeing franchises in major markets not pursuing to the levels that the revenues and the fan base and the market provide, then I think you have an ethical violation of the game."

• Columnist Joel Sherman in the Post suggests the honeymoon for Sandy Alderson should soon be over. Writes Sherman:

Sandy Alderson enjoyed the twin blessings upon his arrival with the Mets. He wasn't Omar Minaya and he wasn't a Wilpon. That has given him a grace period to do what traditionally brings wrath upon a general manager: Cut payroll and expectations simultaneously. But, fair or not, the honeymoon has an expiration date. Soon it will not matter whom he replaced or who signs his paychecks.

• Columnist Bob Klapisch in the Record says the Mets would be kind to repay David Wright for his loyalty to the organization by trading him. Writes Klapisch:

If the money is this tight, and the team is headed toward the basement in the East, trading Wright wouldn't just be a financial necessity, it would also be an act of mercy. Consider it payback for Wright's willingness to act as the Mets' spokesman as they hurtled toward irrelevance. For the way he played hurt in 2011, taking the field with a broken back. For the way he stood by the Wilpons. Sooner or later, it'll be time to repay the favor.

• Mets players told Andrew Keh in the Times they were unfazed by Monday's legal developments. "Honestly, the only way it affects guys is the attention that we get and the questions we get asked, which we don't really know how to answer," Jason Bay told Keh. "If we had a huge presentation on it and everybody was trying to be abreast of what was going on, it might make things way worse. Honestly, I think not knowing, in this situation, for what we have to do, is huge."

• Columnist John Harper in the Daily News reached out to Conor Jackson, who had a debilitating case of valley fever while with the Arizona Diamondbacks in 2009. "I know how bad it was for me and I just hope that's not the case for him," Jackson, who is in Texas Rangers camp, told Harper about Ike Davis. "It's something I wouldn't wish on anybody. ... I feel like a doctor on this subject. A lot of people get it and they react to it differently. It sounds like they caught it early with him, and that's the key, to get it diagnosed. It's a spore, a fungus. If you let it sit, that's when it gets bad, and people -- usually older people -- have died from it. It sounds like they got it early with Ike.

"For me it started out feeling like I had a cold, then maybe the flu," Jackson also told Harper. "It was early in the season and you're not going to ask out of the lineup just because you’re sick. So I played, I thought I could fight through it. I played about five weeks with it, and it kept getting worse and worse. I was sleeping longer and longer every day. One day I slept for 13 or 14 hours. I just felt weak and tired. Finally, I got it diagnosed with a blood test and went on the disabled list. I was taking an anti-fungus medication but I wasn't getting better. By about July I was moving around and feeling a little better, but then I'd go out and hit and I'd have to chill for a day or two because I was so tired. Finally I thought I was OK to go out on a rehab assignment and that made it worse again. It was just a nightmare."

• The Mets lost to the Washington Nationals, 3-1, in Monday's Grapefruit League opener. Andres Torres reached base in both of his plate appearances, while highly regarded pitching prospect Matt Harvey walked three and plunked another while facing only eight Nats batters. Harvey nonetheless tossed two scoreless innings. For the box score, click here. Dillon Gee, who allowed an opposite-field homer to Rick Ankiel, but no other damage in two innings, was particularly satisifed with his changeup, notes Mike Kerwick in the Record. Read more in the Star-Ledger, Newsday and Daily News.

Lenny Dykstra was sentenced to three years in California state prison. Federal charges are still pending. Read more in Newsday, the Daily News and Post.

David Lennon in Newsday looks at all the questions swirling around the Mets, from the health of Santana, Wright and Davis to the financial issues hovering over the club. Wright told Mike Puma in the Post the left rib-cage issue is "more discomfort and tightness than pain."

• Santana plans to throw two innings and likely no more than 35 pitches. Read more in the Post.

• Columnist Jeff Bradley in the Star-Ledger calls the current time "the darkest days in the history of the franchise."

• Here are the Mets' minor league managing and coaching assignments.

TRIVIA: For which North American Soccer League team(s) did Mike Nickeas' father play?

(Monday's answer: Tom Glavine started on Opening Day in 2006. He allowed one run in six innings in a 3-2 win against the Nationals. Billy Wagner notched the save.)

Mets morning briefing 3.4.12

March, 4, 2012
The Mets play their third and final intrasquad game Sunday at 11:15 a.m., then have the first of their weekly team-camaraderie-building bowling events in the evening. (See the team bowling pairings here.) It will be an eventful few days after that, too, with Judge Jed S. Rakoff pledged to rule by Monday whether the lawsuit against Mets owners proceeds and Johan Santana scheduled for his first Grapefruit League action Tuesday.

Sunday's news reports:

• First baseman Ike Davis likely has valley fever, although he is not "currently" experiencing symptoms nor is he being treated with medication, the team said in a statement. Even though Conor Jackson suffered a severe case of valley fever while playing for the Arizona Diamondbacks that led him to describe the energy-sapping effects as "mono on steroids" to the Arizona Republic, many cases are resolved without issue.

The biggest quibble is with how the Mets presented the information. They maintained upon Davis returning to camp Feb. 23 following an exam in New York that (1) Davis had a "minor" lung infection; (2) he could resume activities without restriction; and (3) the issue was resolved in their minds. Yet valley fever, given the potential severity of its symptoms after as much as a three-week incubation period, hardly qualifies as a "minor lung infection." Davis is being told not to over-tax himself and get "run down," so he is not cleared without any restriction, even if he did play in Saturday's intrasquad game and has participated in workouts. The team also said he is "currently" not experiencing symptoms, implying there is at least a chance something could surface. Regardless, certainly when they announced the diagnosis of a "minor" lung infection upon Davis' return from New York to camp it was within the potential incubation period before the disease revealed symptoms, so they could not have known it would not become more serious.

Read more in the Post, Star-Ledger, Daily News, Newsday, Record and Times as well as columnist John Harper's take in the Daily News.

Jim Baumbach and Penn alum Randi F. Marshall in Newsday report on the Mets' finances via public records. They write:

The Mets' ballpark-related revenue, including parking, concessions, stadium advertising and more, has all together dropped more than 30 percent since Citi Field opened in 2009, and premium-ticket sales have fallen almost 50 percent, according to financial records. ... Concession revenue alone dropped 28 percent since 2009 to $10.9 million in 2011, and parking alone fell 37 percent to $7 million in 2011. Ticket sales for 10,635 premium stadium seats, about 25 percent of the 42,000-seat stadium, declined from $99.3 million in 2009 to $50.6 million through the end of the 2011 season.

An series in January relied on similar data, which was reviewed by credit-rating agency Standard & Poors. In Part 1, I wrote:

S&P credit analyst Jodi Hecht reported stadium revenue tumbled 12 percent last season compared with the previous year. The revenue from certain seats pledged to pay off the Citi Field bonds -- mostly those situated in the infield, which account for 41 percent of overall stadium revenue -- fell 22 percent. Merchandise, as well as food and beverage sales, each plummeted by more than 20 percent. Advertising revenue slipped 4 percent -- even with a fixed, $25 million annual payment from Citibank for stadium naming rights included in that calculation, and committed for another 17 seasons. Suite revenue fell 6 percent, with about one-third up for renewal this offseason. Hecht projected a further 10 percent drop in stadium revenue in 2012.

Mets executive VP Dave Howard has projected an uptick in revenue this season and a boost in attendance compared with 2011.

Meanwhile, another major financial issue involving the team should have more clarity by Monday night. Judge Rakoff has set tomorrow as the deadline to rule on Fred Wilpon and family's motion to toss the $386 million lawsuit brought by the trustee trying to recover funds for victims of Bernard Madoff's Ponzi scheme. If the judge declines that request and clears the way for the trial to take place, it will begin on March 19, presumably with jury selection.

Alternatively on Monday, Rakoff could award trustee Irving Picard $83 million -- allegedly the profits withdrawn by the Wilpons from the Ponzi scheme in the two years before Madoff was arrested. In that scenario, Rakoff could rule there is no need for a trial, or he could allow Picard in a trial to try to recover another $303 million in principal invested by the Wilpons with Madoff. The trustee would have to prove the Wilpons were "willfully blind" to signs of a Ponzi scheme in order to collect principal.

No matter the ultimate resolution in Rakoff's U.S. District courtroom in lower Manhattan, expect an appeal attempt by one or both sides to the Second Circuit Court of Appeals.

Scott Hairston suffered a strained left oblique muscle in Saturday's intrasquad game and is due to receive a cortisone injection Monday. Hairston finished last season on the DL with that same injury, creating concern. The Mets are extremely thin in major league-ready outfield depth. Already, they were considering looking for a lefty-hitting outfielder that shakes loose from another camp at the end of spring training as an alternative to using Adam Loewen or Mike Baxter. If Hairston is not ready for Opening Day, Vinny Rottino may be the top righty-hitting option now in camp. For now, Loewen will get more reps in center field. The Mets are reluctant to carry a prospect such as lefty-hitting Kirk Nieuwenhuis on the major league roster unless he regularly would start.

David Wright was scratched from Saturday's intrasquad game after experiencing left rib-cage soreness during the week. He is due to test himself batting today and fully expects to see limited action in Monday night's Grapefruit League opener against the Washington Nationals.

Read more on Hairston and Wright in Newsday, the Star-Ledger, Times, Record, Daily News and Post.

Mike Kerwick in the Record chats with Wright about his future. "I don't know what the future holds for me," Wright told Kerwick. "I don’t know what the future holds with our payroll. That's one of those things where you'll drive yourself crazy if you sit here and worry about that kind of stuff, because I certainly know that I have zero control over our payroll and I have zero control over the financial situation."

• Santana tossed an uneventful 40-pitch bullpen session and is on track to face the St. Louis Cardinals on Tuesday at Digital Domain Park, Terry Collins said.

• Single-game tickets go on sale Monday at 10 a.m. The Mets also announced they will have three postgame concerts this season. That is following the model of the Pittsburgh Pirates, who regularly havce weekend concerts at PNC Park as part of a single-admission ticket with the preceding ballgame. On tap at Citi Field: REO Speedwagon (June 15), Cheap Trick (July 20) and Christian rock band MercyMe (Aug. 10).

Art Spander in Newsday catches up with Chicago White Sox first-year manager Robin Ventura. Writes Spander:

Nobody could have known what to expect when on Aug. 4, 1997, the Rangers' [Nolan] Ryan threw a fastball at Ventura's rib cage. Ventura charged the mound, Ryan put him in a headlock with his left arm, and, as seen in a much-watched video, pounded him with his right hand. Good chance Ventura will be reminded about that in Texas. Said Rangers entertainment head Chuck Morgan, "I'm sure we'll show [the video] Opening Day."

Andrew Keh in the Times profiles Tommy Neiman, who annually serves as the Mets' spring-training chaplain.

R.A. Dickey discusses with Andy McCullough in the Star-Ledger the knuckleballer's upcoming memoir "Wherever I Wind Up," which is due out March 29. "Well, I had been writing on it, off and on, for the last five years," Dickey told McCullough. "So I had a good bit of it already in place. I had to come up with 90,000 words. So I wrote, and I liked to write the baseball entries in the moment. So after the games that I pitched, or after a significant event during the season, I'd go back to the hotel room and write right there."

• McCullough profiles reliever D.J. Carrasco in the Star-Ledger. Carrasco is under contract for this season for $1.2 million. Writes McCullough:

In the 26th round of the 1997 draft, the Baltimore Orioles chose Carrasco, a junior-college pitcher with an unconventional delivery who longed to be a hitter -- and then cut him a year later. The Cleveland Indians signed him shortly thereafter -- and released him two months later at his own request. The next spring, the Pittsburgh Pirates bought his rights from a nearby independent league team -- for $1. “For a dollar,” Carrasco said last summer. “They purchased me for a dollar.” ... When the Pirates spent that dollar in 1998 to acquire Carrasco from the Johnstown Johnnies, they were contractually obligated to give him 25 percent of the fee. Except he never saw the miniscule sum. It was just another slight -- however minor -- in a career already pocked with them.

Eight years later, when Carrasco returned to the Pirates, McCullough notes, he asked for the 25 cents. He now has the check framed and hanging on a wall at his Texas home.

TRIVIA: After Willie Randolph was fired by the Mets, for which two managers did he serve as a coach?

(Friday's answer: Dave Kingman had the lowest single-season average in franchise history among players with at least 500 plate appearances. Kingman hit .204 with the Mets in 1982, while leading the National League with 37 homers and 156 strikeouts.)



Bartolo Colon
14 4.02 143 190
BAD. Murphy .295
HRL. Duda 27
RBIL. Duda 81
RD. Murphy 75
OPSL. Duda .821
ERAJ. Niese 3.55
SOZ. Wheeler 173